Introduction: Chevron Adirondack Chair
The Adirondack chair.
A word very few can say correctly (pronounced: "ad-er-on-dack"), but all appreciate the beautifulness that is this popular outdoor chair.
The Adirondack chair got its start in the United States in 1903 (if you would like more information about the history of this type of chair, click here), and has since been adapted thousands upon thousands of times to suit both personal styles and eras. However, the main characteristics of this chair are it's wide arm rests and it's reclined seat and back.
I really wanted to try my hand at making one of these chairs (to eventually become a set of five chairs to go around our family's backyard firepit), but I wanted it to be my own special design. What sets my chair's design apart from other Adirondack chairs is it's unique chevron wood design on the backing of the chair.
If you Google "chevron Adirondack chair" (Go ahead, I will wait...) you will find mostly regular Adirondack chair designs (with their traditional vertical-planked backs) and some painted-on or fabric-covered chevron designs. But, I wanted the actual wood frame itself to incorporate a chevron design.
So, here's my take on this classic chair. Enjoy!
- 2 - 1x4x8
- 1 - 1x4x10
- 3 - 2x4x8
- 1 - 2x2x8
- 3 - 1x2x8
TOOLS & SUPPLIES:
- Electric drill and drill bits (particularly 5/32 and 9/64 drill bits)
- Circular saw
- Speed Square
- Measuring Tape
- Electric sander, sanding block, etc
- 100, 150, and 220 grit sandpapers
- 2 packs of 60+ each #8 1-1/4" finishing nails (stainless steel so they don't rust in the weather)
- 1 pack of 60+ #8 2-1/2" exterior wood screws
- 2 packs (4 in each pack, WITH screws included) 3/4" long x 1/2" wide corner braces
- 1 pack (4 in the pack, WITH screws included) 1" to 1-1/2" long x 1/2" wide flat metal braces
- OPTIONAL: 1 1/4" exterior screws, or use more of the finishing nails with wood glue
- Deck Sealer (I used Thompson's Water Seal brand deck sealer)
- Container to pour deck sealer in + Paintbrush, foam brush, or roller for applying deck sealer
- Stain or Paint (I used the smallest containers of Minwax Classic Gray, Minwax Natural, and Minwax Pickled Oak for staining my project)
- OPTIONAL: Stainable wood filler (however, if you don't have to use it, I would skip this, because it is noticeable when you're up close to the finished piece, no matter how well you sand it down)
- OPTIONAL: Painter's tape
- OPTIONAL: Level (but I didn't find this necessary, I substituted a flat edge 2x4 for the only part I needed to be level -- more on that in a future step)
- OPTIONAL: Foam brushes for staining (I found using one helped me be more precise than the rag alone, however the downside is a foam brush will drizzle all over when it gets squeezed in any way)
- OPTIONAL: Dry, clean rags for wiping off the stain
Step 1: The Beginnings
Since I am a noob at making Adirondack chairs, I followed Ana White's tutorial for the base of the chair. If you ever need any more guidance or diagrams for the build, please check out her tutorial here.
To begin, you will need to make 2 of the following boards:
- On the end of a 2x4, cut a 30 degree cut off square. To cut "off square" you will need to place your speed square with the top point of the triangle marked "pivot" on the top right corner of a 2x4. The speed square will have the lip facing up and the 6" ruler facing down or to the right (depending on how you hold it). Use picture number 4 as a guide to how to do this. Pivot the speed square until the bottom degrees (where it is marked 0-80) lines up with the angle to be cut (in this case 30 degrees). This will line up on the top of the 2x4 (as seen in the photo). Once this is lined up, mark the angle on the opposite side of the speed square (where the outer most edge of the 6" ruler is). Now you will have a 30 degree angle to cut! Follow this approach for ALL angled cuts in this Instructable.
- On the other end of the 2x4 (31-7/8" long from one end to the other on the longest side), cut a 20 degree cut (I used a jigsaw for all angled cuts in this project, and a circular saw for all straight cuts, with the exception of cutting the 2x2 board I used a jigsaw so I could see the line to cut) where the angles are cut running in the same direction (as if they were parallel). To accomplish this, I had to turn my board over.
- Once you have a similar board to picture number 9, you will add an additional cut to the 20 degree cut side. Take your speed square and press the lipped side up against the short edge of the 2x4 (as in picture number 10). You will see that when you do this, the numbers on your speed square where the 6" ruler is will fall along that top edge. Move your speed square down until the number 2 (for 2") runs across the edge of the 2x4. This means you're cutting 2" off at a 90 degree angle from this side. When you are finished, you will have a piece that looks like pictures 12-14.
- Use your perfectly cut, angled board to quickly trace around onto a second 2x4 piece (so you don't have to do all the angled measurements again). I highly recommend saving a tracing (on paper) or a "pattern" of scrap boards of all the angled pieces you will be using in this project, especially if you want to make more than one chair now or in the future.
- I like to put an arrow on the boards in the direction that faces the longest side (for my knowledge). And I also add to each board what lengths they are (and sometimes what piece they are by title, ie: arm support) so I can quickly find the pieces I need after cutting.
One last note, I did not add a cut list because I highly recommend cutting them a little at a time just so you can adjust to real-life changes in measurements that your project may have differently from mine (or from Ana's). Even the slightest miscalculation or wiggle with the jigsaw, or even a bowed board (etc) can create pieces that don't fit perfectly together. Therefore, I found it most helpful to measure twice, cut once per every step (just to verify what your personal measurements for your chair actually are).
Step 2: Cutting Front Leg Boards
Cut two 2x4 board pieces to 20" long (no angles). These will become your front legs of the chair. I used the circular saw for all straight edged cuts.
Step 3: Cutting the Back Leg Boards
Cut two 20-3/4" on the longest side pieces with 15 degrees off center cuts on both sides (facing in the same direction).
I'm not gonna lie, I struggled with figuring out how to keep the length of the boards to what they needed to be AFTER the angles were cut (especially when angles were cut on two sides of the same board and it needed a "longest side" measurement to be exact). If you are struggling with that too, then I recommend cutting a longer board than needed to give you plenty of space to chop off the angle(s) and wean it down to the correct lengths.
To the carpenters reading this, sound off in the comments better solutions please! We all would love to hear them!! :D
Step 4: Cutting Arm Supports
Cut two 2x2s to 26-1/2" long on the longest side, and a 15 degree angle on only one side of each board. So, to recap, one side of the 2x2 board is a straight cut, and one side is a 15 degree cut (per board).
Step 5: Attaching It Together
Take a front leg, put it on the right side. Take a back leg, put it on the left side, Take a 2x2 arm support, put it across the top, make sure it sits flush with the edges of each leg. So, where the flat side of the front leg is, make it flush with that on the right side. Where the angled side of the back leg is, make it flush with that on the left side.
Screw the arm support to the legs one at a time with 2-1/2" exterior wood screws (pre-drill with a 5/32 drill bit).
NOTE: ALWAYS pre-drill ALL screws in this project!!
FLIP THE WHOLE THING OVER (so the arm support is on the outside). Grab a "stretcher" piece (aka the 31-7/8" long on the longest side piece you first cut).
Measure up the front leg from the floor-up 13-3/4" and mark. Measure from the outer edge of the front leg in 1/2" and mark. You should have something marked that looks like picture #6.
Butt the funky 20 degree edge (with a 90 degree cut in it) along those lines, and screw in (pre-drilling first).
Lastly, attach the end of the stretcher to the lowest part along the inside back leg that it can go. Pre-drill and screw this in place.
NOTE: YOUR STRETCHER SHOULD GO ALL THE WAY BACK TO SIT FLUSH WITH THE BACK OF THE BACK LEG AND TOUCH THE FLOOR ON THE BOTTOM (however, as you will see in my pictures, mine was very short. That is because I was trying to figure out the angles in the beginning and therefore had a shorter piece. But with the pandemic, I didn't want to go back out for more wood unnecessarily so I just used the cuts I made).
Side Note: On a side note, this step is where it can help to have a straight edge 2x4 sitting at the bottom of the two legs just to make sure the legs sit flush with each other and the would-be floor (see last picture).
Step 6: Repeat
Repeat the previous step's entire process for the second set of legs, but make sure to MIRROR it so everything will line up in the next steps.
Step 7: Front Apron & Seat Slats
Using a 1x4, cut a total of six 22-1/2" long pieces.
FRONT APRON: One of the 22-1/2" pieces will be for the front apron. This front apron will sit in the 1/2" gap you left when attaching the stretchers, in the front top part of the seat, where the top of the apron sits perfectly flush with the top of the stretchers. Pre-drill and screw this in place with 2-1/2" screws.
SEAT SLATS: The other five pieces will be for the seat slats. The first slat has a front that sits flush with the front of the apron (as seen in the pictures). Attach with pre-drilled 2-1/2" screws. MAKE SURE the screws indent slightly into the wood, so you can easily wood fill them later without having bulge from the screw heads. The next seat slat (and all slats in this Instructable) will sit roughly 1/2" back from the first slat. I accomplished this by using a 1x4 (or you could use a 1x2) as my spacer. An extra set of hands for this part is helpful too to keep the slats pressed against the spacer while you drill them into place.
When you're done, you should have something like the last picture.
Step 8: Adding a Back Support
Cut a 22-1/2" long piece out of 2x4 wood. (Mine actually ended up being 23" long, so I would suggest cutting a half inch bigger and trimming it down to 22-1/2" if needed. You can always cut down more, but once it's cut too short, you can't add anything to it to make it longer.)
To attach it at the proper angle (for holding the back of the chair on), simply measure down from the TOP INSIDE of the chair (the part FACING the seat slats) 4-1/2" and make a small mark. Then measure down from the top backside of the chair (the opposite side of the wood) 5" and make a small mark. (I connected the marks with a line for easier identification of where to put the back support. P.S. use pencil when marking your wood as you will have to sand it off later. I used pen for easier visibility for this Instructable. It was a little extra work sanding it off later.)
Line up each edge of the back support with the line created and screw into place from the outsides with 2-1/2" screws (pre-drilling of course).
Step 9: Building the Back Rest Frame
Now this is where I take over the instructions completely. Whoop whoop!
First, you want to cut out the following pieces of wood:
- 1 - 2x4 at 19-1/2" long (I actually had to adjust this to be about 19-7/8" to fit in my actual chair, so make sure measure your personal project first and then cut)
- 1 - 2x4 at 19-1/2" long (I used 19-7/8" long)
- 3 - 1x2 at 29" long each
Assemble them as seen in the second picture. Just rest them in position.
Assemble the braces, with the flat braces on the outside to attach the 1x4 and 2x4 to the 2x2s, and the corner braces in each corner (8 total).
Measure where the center support will sit. Because I used 19-7/8" 1x4 and 2x4 boards, the middle of my middle support would have to sit exactly at 9-15/16". Do exactly half way of whatever your board length is, and mark the 1x4 and 2x4. Then measure half of the 1x2 to find the center of the support itself. Halfway would be about 3/4" (because a 1x2's actual measurement is 1-1/2" in width). Mark the 1x2 where this middle line is. Match up the two middle lines when adding the corner braces to the center support.
Pre-drill by taping your drill bit (I had to use a 9/64 drill bit to pre-drill here) with painter's tape (or other means) slightly shorter than the length of a screw that came in the package, that way you don't drill in too deep or too shallow. Then screw the braces into place (both flat and corner).
NOTE: If you get a bowed piece of wood (as most 1x2s seem to be), and the center lines don't match up (as seen in my last 2 pictures of this step). Simply push the wood over (after having screwed in place the opposite end first) with your finger and hold it there while screwing it in place.
Step 10: Cutting Chevron -- the Fun Begins!
We finally get to the wonderful part of cutting chevron! And don't be intimidated! This is actually the EASIEST cutting to do (as far as angles are concerned). Plus, it's literally just repetition over and over and over.
Unlike in the beginning when there was nothing to use as a guide for the angles, the frame in this instance is already built so you can use it as your guide for every slat on this back rest.
NOTE: All slats will be either a 1x2 or a 1x4. The pattern is a 1x4 on bottom. Then three 1x2s, then a 1x4, and then three 1x2s, you get the picture. There is about a 1/2" space in between each piece (I used a 1x2 scrap piece for a spacer).
- Cut 2 pieces of 1x4 to 14-1/4" long (if using my length of wood at 19-7/8", if using 19-1/2", this measurement will be a little shorter) on the longest side with 2 opposite-facing 45 degree angles on either end. Making 45 degree angles is super easy (and will be the angle that you cut every single edge to for these pieces)! On the speed square, if you put the lip on the top of the board, you will see a diagonal line running across the board (as in picture #1). This diagonal line is your 45 degree line. Easy peasy! Mark it, cut it, and lay it down against the framing as seen in picture #3. Mark about where the uncut end hits the outermost part of the frame on the left side. Take the board off, use your speed square to straighten out the 45 degree cut, and cut it. You will get a trapezoid shape for this piece. Use the first piece for tracing out the second piece (no more measuring needed for the second piece).
- Attach these pieces to the framing with 1-1/4" FINISHING NAILS (and glue if you want extra support). Make sure to meet them up in the center along the center line. NOTE: Extend a center line along the entire length of the center support board. This will make your life so much easier when lining up the boards in the center.
Step 11: INTERMISSION: a BIG MISTAKE!
So, I'm going to include information now about a big mistake I made (even though I made it at the VERY END, ugh!), so you aren't confused by my use of screws in the next steps when I'm telling you to use finishing nails.
If you do not wish to read about my big mistake, then please feel free to progress to the next step. :)
A TALE OF TWO FOES:
You will see that I used screws originally to secure the chevron pieces to the framing. Sounds like a good, sturdy idea, right!? NO! BIG MISTAKE!
The wood I got from Lowes was cheap, and as such it had knots and all sorts of things that wouldn't always allow my screws to indent into the wood, causing unsightly bulges and noticeable screw heads (Enter Foe #1). This also makes for an uncomfortable chair and it caused some of the screws to even unscrew from the wood. UGH!
So, my thought process (which was CLEARLY skewed for whatever reason), was to get some cheap wood filler (Enter Foe #2) from Walmart, and when looking at the wood fillers, for some strange reason my brain thought that I should get the white wood filler because it was a "blank slate" and when stained wouldn't already have a coloration of it's own (such as in the "natural" wood filler color). I don't know why I thought this, so please don't ask! I was clearly delusional! Hahaha!
Therefore, I decided to use wood filler ("Plastic Wood" in my case) all over every screw head and every seam of my entire project. My peculiar thinking continued to convince me that if I globbed it over the bulging screwheads, that it would create little "wooden caps" over them that I could then stain. Again, don't ask!
After having done all this wood filling, I waited overnight and came back to it in the morning. Boy, that sleep must have kicked my brain out of la-la land and back into reality because my initial thought the next day became "I need to test the stain on this wood filler." Hello!!! That should've been my FIRST thought! Ugh!!
So after testing the stain on the wood filler, I find out that even though it says you CAN stain the filler, that doesn't mean you SHOULD. It literally looked like giant white blotches underneath the stain. No....oh no....
Now, I had to sand off ALL the white wood filler (so it wouldn't look white under my stain), go to the store and buy STAINABLE Wood Filler and finishing nails (and of course, more sandpaper!) and dig out and remove the protruding screws after having nailed down the wood. Then sanded again to get all the white filler out that was under the screws. Not to mention, I had to fill in all the spots with the stainable wood filler to cover up any white filler that wouldn't come out. UGH!!!!! It was such a l-o-n-g process, and it added WAY TOO MUCH TIME to my project that was unnecessary, plus it created way worse looking slats on the back rest than I would've had if I had used the proper tools/filler in the first place.
Oh well...live and learn and make it better with the next chair! So, PLEASE, use FINISHING NAILS (and maybe wood glue) to attach the slats and avoid the mayhem I had. :D
Step 12: Anywhoo...
Cut the following pieces (but remember to use your own project's measurements more than the ones listed here):
- 10 - 1x2 boards at 14-1/4" each on the longest side BUT THIS TIME use 45 degree angles on both ends of each board that are PARALLEL (as seen in the pictures).
- 2 - 1x4 boards at 14-1/4" each on the longest side, with 45 degree angles on both ends of each board that are parallel
Attach with 1-1/4" FINISHING NAILS.
NOTE: To evenly space the length of each back rest slat, start your spacer at center (so it rests against the previous wood slat), holding down the center end of the new wood slat with your hand. Then slide the spacer along the previous wood slat so that it pushes your new wood slat into position just right.
Now, I would say whether you're painting or staining this, use the finishing nails in an overall design-like way (maybe around the border and the center support, or to highlight the chevron pattern), so think about them as you insert them. Think about where they would look best as an additional feature of the chair and not just an adhesion method. Then let them show (without the use of wood filler to cover their heads up). This would be the easiest, quickest, and least stressful way to do it. But the choice, of course, is entirely yours!
NOTE: When you are adding the last 1x2 boards to the top, I would suggest (and this is the approach I used), forgoing the 1/2" spacer, and lining up the corners of the angled cut edges with the corners of the chair frame. That just makes it look like a nice, clean border in the finished project.
Step 13: Finishing the Chevron
Now that we have rounded the corner to be on the short top end of the rectangular back frame, we have to use pieces that have opposite angled directions (look like trapezoids when cut out). This will ensure it all lines up at center and on the edges.
The last 1x4 pieces will push up together to make a sort of triangle. Use the last picture in this step for the basic idea of what it should look like, then use your measurements from your exact project to make it happen.
Remember: All of these cuts are still 45 degree angles. The only thing that changed is where on the frame each board sits, and therefore how long each board gets cut to.
Step 14: Adding the Back Rest to the Chair
Slide the back rest down into the back of the chair so the bottom 2x4 sits flush with the seat slats (and sits against them). Use the pictures for guidance.
Attach the back rest from the outsides with 2-1/2" pre-drilled screws (back to the 5/32 drill bit) AND in three places from the front of the back rest into the back support 2x4 using the same screws.
Step 15: Adding Arm Rests
Measure two 1x4 boards (or you could use 1x6s) to 27-1/2" lengths. Cut straight cuts. You can use the armrests this way, OR, continue on for a rounded edge armrest...
Using a bowl bottom (or other round object of the desired size), trace a rounded edge onto each board (if using 1x6s, you can design any type of edges you want for your armrests). Cut the rounded edges out of the boards with a jigsaw.
Attach to the chair framing (where the inside of the armrests sit FLUSH with the inside of the arm rest supports underneath them...the overhang should be on the OUTSIDE of the arm rest supports) with 2-1/2" indented screws OR 1-1/4" (up to 2-1/2") finishing nails with optional wood glue.
Step 16: Time to Stain!
Hallelujah! This project is nearing an end! It's almost time to enjoy all your hard work (unless of course you have one or more additional chairs to make!).
You can omit the following and simply sand (from 150-220+ grits) and paint if you're painting instead.
NOTE: After sanding, be sure to remove excess sawdust from the wood before staining or painting. You can achieve this by using a large paintbrush, or using a slightly damp rag.
- Test your wood stain options on different wood block scraps (because the different lumber sizes are different shades and sometimes even types of wood). Test it with the wood filler dried on there too. SAND it all down with a 220 grit sandpaper before testing the stains (after the filler is totally dry). NOTE: You will need to stir the stain before using it.
- When you've decided on the ones you want to use (I used these from Minwax: Classic Gray, Pickled Oak, and Natural), sand down literally EVERYTHING from 100 or 150 to 220 grits.
- Apply the stain with a rag or a foam brush, wearing gloves if you have them, and being in a WELL VENTILATED area (like outside, or in a garage with the door all the way open). Leave it on for 5-15 minutes depending on how dark you want it to be. Then wipe it away with a clean cloth. DO NOT leave on excess stain, ALWAYS wipe it off.
I chose to stain the entire base in Classic Gray (this helped to hide some unsightliness from my aforementioned mayhem), plus it's beautiful and matches the colors in our backyard/outer house. Then for the chevron pattern, I did all the 1x4s in Classic Gray, the top and bottom of each set of three 1x2s in Pickled Oak, and the centers of each set of three 1x2s in Natural (I double did the Natural color to give it a darker stain, and make it more noticeably different from the Pickled Oak stain).
NOTE: Be sure to allow the stain to dry for at least 8-24 hours before sealing it (or whatever is recommended by your specific stain's manufacturer).
Step 17: Seal It!
Seal the entire project with exterior deck sealer (such as the one I used, Thompson's Water Seal). This will ensure it holds up for years to come, despite the elements!
To apply the sealer, pour it into a bowl (if using a paint brush or foam brush to apply it), or in a painter's tray (if using a roller to apply it). Then brush or roll it on. Make sure to wear gloves (especially if you are sensitive to the sealer), and optional eyewear (likewise, if you are sensitive to it) when working with this product. A mask may be necessary if the smell is too much for you (or you are sensitive to it).
Allow to dry thoroughly in-between coats. Follow the recommendations made by the manufacturer.
Be sure to allow the full final drying time, after you're done applying all coats, before using it or setting it outside.
On my directions it said to also be sure to not apply sealer if there's rain forecasted within 24 hours, but that's for an outdoor deck, so just keep your chair indoors while it dries if you have rain forecasted in your area.
NOTE: A water-based sealer will not yellow when exposed to sunlight, however an oil-based sealer will. So be sure to note that when choosing your sealer.
Step 18: DONE!
Hip hip hooray! You made it this far!! Enjoy your new, "fancy" chevron Adirondack chair! And practice saying "Adirondack" so you can sound bawse when you talk about what you made to your friends (but they probably won't know the chair by name anyhow!). ;)
Enjoy it on your porch, by a fire pit, on a deck, by the beach, even in your home if the decor is right!
I hope you enjoyed my take on this wonderful classic!
Participated in the